By Stephen Baker
The Good Lets users pick between most relevant and most recent blogs. And it's fast
The Bad Doesn't provide complete results, and includes too many spam blogs
The Bottom Line The search giant fails to deliver a KO. For now, it's just another blog search engine
Search the Web, and you plow through a vast digital library. Things don't change much from one day to the next. But searching the world's fast-growing universe of blogs is another experience altogether. Blogs show us what people are talking about today. If Web sites show us what the world knows, blogs give us a read of what's on the world's mind.
Check that. They would give us such a read if we could turn to a fantastic blog search engine capable of combing through 17 million blogs (and counting), minute by minute, and making sense of it all. Plenty have tried, from market leader Technorati to Blogpulse and newcomer IceRocket.
SPEEDY SEARCH. But the results vary widely, and sometimes the service is painfully slow. The situation became so dire last summer that frustrated bloggers circulated digital petitions imploring Google (GOOG) to enter the realm of blog search.
Google finally responded. On Sept. 14, the search giant unveiled the beta version of its long anticipated Blog Search. At first glance, it looks like bloggers' prayers are answered. Google provides the same barebones design we've grown used to.
It also lets users toggle between lists, one showing the most recent blogs on a subject, the other the most relevant. For me, this is the most valuable feature of the service. What's more, the speed of its blog search is just what you'd expect: lightning fast.
SPAMMERS' STRATEGY. So what's wrong? If this were a new blog search by any other company, I'd be blowing its horn long and loud. With one leap, Google has produced a search engine that's among the best. Maybe it's not fair, but with Google's immense resources, I expected the company to leave the competition far behind from Day One. But no, it has its share of problems, just like the others.
The first: It doesn't provide complete results. On BusinessWeek's own site, Blogspotting.net, we posted six items on Sept. 20. Five of them showed up on Technorati, none by late that afternoon on Google. Even on the Advanced Search feature, where you can type exact phrases to look for, our posts remained hidden.
The second problem is spam blogs. These machine-generated blogs are engineered to amass the right combination of links and key words to rise to the top of search-engine rankings -- and to attract Google's automatically placed advertising. Early test drives on Google turn up a fair number of them.
LIMITED USE. Google sits at the center of the spam-blog universe, and with its new search engine, this could get worse. Here's why. Google already runs the biggest free blogging service in the world, Blogger. Since it's free, easy and popular, Blogger unwittingly hosts loads of the spam blogs. Google also operates the largest automatic ad-placement service, AdSense. That provides much of the revenue for spam blogs. And you can bet that the spammers are already gaming their blogs to climb toward the top of Google's new blog search.
The good news: Now that Google is in the middle of the spamosphere, perhaps it will focus its prodigious brainpower into vanquishing the spam bots and their pollution. For now, though, Google's entr? into blog search doesn't change much. I'll be using the engine from time to time, especially its useful tool to find relevant blogs. But even with Google in the mix, blog search is still very much a work in progress.
Baker is a senior writer for BusinessWeek in New York